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IACM 2023

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Do “Positive Events” Always Boost Engagement In Tasks? How and Why Positive Events Can Reduce Engagement In High-Risk Conflict Resolution Tasks

Engagement in conflict resolution tasks is crucial for successful conflict resolution. Prevailing theories assert that “positive events” (events which trigger positive feeling states) will boost behavioral engagement. However, this effect has only been demonstrated for low-risk tasks. We argue that, for high-risk tasks (which can fail and lead to substantial negative consequences), positive events will reduce behavioral engagement by triggering positive feeling states, making individuals averse to engaging in high-risk tasks that could “fail” and plunge them into negative feeling states. Using quasi-experiments, we demonstrate that exogenous positive events–sunny days (Study 1), good news (Study 2), and a rising stock market (Study 3)–reduce crisis counselors’ engagement in high-risk conflict resolution tasks. A randomized experiment (Study 4) confirms that the impact of positive events on engagement is moderated by whether the task is low-risk or high-risk. Thus, our research reveals when positive events will reduce (rather than boost) engagement.

Polly Kang

David Daniels
National University of Singapore

Maurice Schweitzer
Wharton School
United States


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